Iain Hamilton Grant’s Schelling in Opposition to Fichte. Note Quote.

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The stated villain of Philosophies of Nature is not Hegelianism but rather ‘neo-Fichteanism’. It is Grant’s ‘Philosophies of Nature After Schelling‘, which takes up the issue of graduating Schelling to escape the accoutrements of Kantian and Fichtean narrow transcendentalism. Grant frees Schelling from the grips of narrow minded inertness and mechanicality in nature that Kant and Fichte had presented nature with. This idea is the Deleuzean influence on Grant. Manuel De Landa makes a vociferous case in this regard. According to De Landa, the inertness of matter was rubbished by Deleuze in the way that Deleuze sought for a morphogenesis of form thereby launching a new kind of materialism. This is the anti-essentialist position of Deleuze. Essentialism says that matter and energy are inert, they do not have any morphogenetic capabilities. They cannot give rise to new forms on their own. Disciplines like complexity theory, non-linear dynamics do give matter its autonomy over inertness, its capabilities in terms of charge. But its account of the relationship between Fichte and Schelling actually obscures the rich meaning of speculation in Hegel and after. Grant quite accurately recalls that Schelling confronted Fichte’s identification of the ‘not I’ with passive nature – the consequence of identifying all free activity with the ‘I’ alone. For Grant, that which Jacobi termed ‘speculative egotism’ becomes the nightmare of modern philosophy and of technological modernity at large. The ecological concern is never quite made explicit in Philosophies of Nature. Yet Grant’s introduction to Schelling’s On the World Soul helps to contextualise the meaning of his ‘geology of morals’.

What we miss from Grant’s critique of Fichte is the manner by which the corrective, positive characterisation of nature proceeds from Schelling’s confirmation of Fichte’s rendering of the fact of consciousness (Tatsache) into the act of consciousness (Tathandlung). Schelling, as a consequence, becomes singularly critical of contemplative speculation, since activity now implies working on nature and thereby changing it – along with it, we might say – rather than either simply observing it or even experimenting upon it.

In fact, Grant reads Schelling only in opposition to Fichte, with drastic consequences for his speculative realism: the post-Fichtean element of Schelling’s naturephilosophy allows for the new sense of speculation he will share with Hegel – even though they will indeed turn this against Kant and Fichte. Without this account, we are left with the older, contemplative understanding of metaphysical speculation, which leads to a certain methodologism in Grant’s study. Hence, ‘the principle method of naturephilosophy consists in “unconditioning” the phenomena’. Relatedly, Meillassoux defines the ‘speculative’ as ‘every type of thinking’ – not acting, – ‘that claims to be able to access some form of absolute’.

In direct contrast to this approach, the collective ‘system programme’ of Hegel, Schelling and Hölderlin was not a programme for thinking alone. Their revolutionised sense of speculation, from contemplation of the stars to reform of the worldly, is overlooked by today’s speculative realism – a philosophy that, ‘refuses to interrogate reality through human (linguistic, cultural or political) mediations of it’. We recall that Kant similarly could not extend his Critique to speculative reason precisely on account of his contemplative determination of pure reason (in terms of the hierarchical gap between reason and the understanding). Grant’s ‘geology of morals’ does not oppose ‘Kanto-Fichtean philosophy’, as he has it, but rather remains structurally within the sphere of Kant’s pre-political metaphysics.

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